The draft local plan which is out for consultation includes housing and economic data for the community network area and within that, separately, for Truro/Kenwyn and the rest of the network area.
In so far as there has been public debate about the draft local plan in the media, they have followed the lead of Cornwall Council and focused on whether housing numbers might go up as well as down. The Truro/Kenwyn plan agreed in responding to last year’s consultation on the draft local plan not to ask for changes to the 2200 homes proposed for Truro/Kenwyn.
Over 3000 planning permissions are already granted, including some homes completed since 2010 (the start of the plan); if 20% or more of the uncompleted planning permissions were not built, at least 2200 will be provided by 2030. The draft local plan identifies jobs growth of 2150 in Truro by 2030. The housing number of 2200 is broadly consistent with the LEP draft economic strategy which envisages housing and jobs numbers growing in tandem up to 2031 (whether or not that’s sensible – see next post).
However, the draft local plan consultation now proposes a higher housing figure of 3000 in Truro/Kenwyn, which I think it would be reasonable to reduce. The draft strategic policy 2 refers to ‘providing homes and jobs in a proportional manner’, which is a reasonable approach in terms of sustainability. If it were decided for example to grow the number of households in Cornwall by 20% (which is what is proposed in the consultation document), then – as the households in Truro/Kenwyn comprise 4% of Cornish households – it would be proportional to allocate 4% of new dwellings to Truro/Kenwyn – ie a total of 1900 by 2030.
In relation to affordable housing the proportions in this draft local plan are also reasonable (40% in Truro/Kenwyn and 50% on former public sector land). However, the daft policy 11 wholly undermines this by showing numerous ways in which developers might use ‘viability’ to argue for a lower proportion of affordable housing; but would never be asked to consider renegotiating other aspects of the development to ensure delivery of affordable homes. I understand the policy context, which is likely to change before 2030, and first and foremost I think the local plan should support the community’s reasonable expectations.
The higher total for Cornwall of 47,500 in the 2014 consultation is based on a 2013 Strategic Housing Market Needs Assessment. The SHMNA is an assessment of the housing market which emerged from a clear recognition that the housing market was failing to meet housing need; the policy approach to the housing market has now changed, and the Government revised and published new guidelines in March 2014 on housing need and economic development assessments, confirms: ‘Local planning authorities may consider departing from the methodology, but they should explain why their particular local circumstances have led them to adopt a different approach where this is the case.’ So a Cornwall-led approach to housing development is possible, if Cornwall Council were only willing to step up to the responsibility. It would take a bit more time but it might transform the draft local plan from the timid and confused jumble of contradictions that it is into a locally led plan for genuinely sustainable development.
People may or may not be good with numbers, but they intuitively understand the community’s need for housing and have opinions as to whether the housing market projections – in the words of William Blake – are ‘Enough! or Too Much!’. Most people would prefer a more straightforward assessment of the housing needs in Cornwall, and recognise that developers’ greed and the demands of the housing market on Cornwall are something else again, and environmentally not sustainable.